Robbie Gould’s foot leaves big shoe for Connor Barth to fill

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The Bears will sign Connor Barth to replace Robbie Gould. (AP)

The Bears replaced Robbie Gould with a kicker who knows, more than most, the itinerant nature of the position.

Hours after telling their all-time leading scorer they planned to release him Sunday night, the Bears agreed to bring in Connor Barth to take his place.

Barth has been cut twice since May — first when the Buccaneers decided to draft Roberto Aguayo, and then, Saturday, when the Saints decided to keep Kai Forbath instead of the 30-year-old.

He’s hardly had the staying power of Gould, who signed with the Bears in 2005 after working construction and kept the same office, amazingly, for 11 seasons. Barth has been cut the last three camps. He started his career in 2008 with the Chiefs, then kicked for the Buccaneers through 2012 before tearing his right Achilles tendon in a celebrity basketball game and missing 2013.

Barth kicked five times for John Fox’s Broncos in 2014, making 15 of 16 attempts and 4-of-5 attempts from 40 yards or longer.

Despite all his stops, Barth has kicked at Soldier Field exactly once — the first preseason game of his rookie year. An August appearance there means as little as the exhibition’s final score; as Gould could undoubtedly testify, kicking in the wind and cold weather — and off ground the consistency of soup — has a high degree of difficulty.

Still, Gould’s numbers were fantastic. He leaves Halas Hall with a team-record 1,207 career points, having surpassed Kevin Butler’s 1,116 last year against the Chiefs. His 33 field goals last year, and seven from 50 yards or further, were both team records.

Gould made 84.6 percent of his kicks in 2015, close to his franchise-best career average of 85.4, and said afterward he thought he had a “really good year.”

Of the 704 players cut league-wide Saturday, and others Sunday, perhaps no casualty was more respected among their teammates. Gould, whose longest-tenured title is ceded to Jay Cutler, won the team’s Ed Block Courage Award in April.

“Can’t replace greatness,” former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman Tweeted late Sunday.

“Damn crazy business,” wrote retired long-snapper Patrick Mannelly.

“Salute to one of the best to ever do it,” guard Kyle Long said on Twitter.

Gould added extra weight and began training earlier in the offseason to improve his strength. He wasn’t spectacular in training camp, but certainly didn’t seem in danger of losing his job, either, despite the fact only four kickers league-wide had a higher annual average salary than his $3.75 million.

He made 5-of-6 kicks during exhibition games, but missed two extra points — one was wide left, the other blocked — on Thursday against the Browns.

He declined comment after the game, saying he’d talk about later during the week.

“You’re gonna have to ask Robbie on that one,” punter/holder Pat O’Donnell said Thursday when asked about the misses. “The snaps seemed good. It might have been something that threw him off.”

If the Bears were unhappy with Gould this offseason, though, they didn’t show it. The team didn’t use a second kicker in the preseason — or last preseason, either.

While Barth has never worked with O’Donnell, he does know the Bears’ snapper, Aaron Brewer, with whom he worked in Denver.

His foot, though, has a big shoe to fill.

Adam L. Jahns contributed.

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